CPD materials for teachers. Findings from the Children s Literature Comenius Project.

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1 CPD materials for teachers Findings from the Children s Literature Comenius Project Using children s literature Generic approaches to teaching Choosing a text The data from the project demonstrated that children across each of the participating countries had a preference for books that were funny. This would suggest that this is a good starting point for text choice but only a starting point if children read this genre through choice then, as teachers, we need to consider how we extend choice, to increase preference and so develop children as readers able to make informed choices about their reading. The second high scoring genre preference was adventure stories and so again, using the adventure genre is a good choice. The data also demonstrated the link between the number of books in a child s home and their interest and engagement with reading. To address the possible differences in children s access to text, the classroom becomes a critical focus for developing opportunities for children to engage with text. Over half of children in each of the participating countries did not think they learnt in school how to make a book selection. When selecting texts for use in the classroom, the teacher can make explicit why they have chosen the text to use with the class or encourage children to reflect, having worked with a text, why it was good text; other texts by the same author; other texts that are similar or that are connected in some way e.g. similar genre, plot, characters etc. Interactive ways of working with text to develop engagement, response and language comprehension skills. Book introduction ideas Activating prior knowledge, predicting/hypothesising: Do children know books by the same author? Use this to predict what the story might be about. Present children with a box, filled with objects that can be found in the story. Ask the children to decide what the story might be about based on the objects that will appear in the story. Alternatively, leave a number of the objects around the classroom the week before the book is introduced.create a mystery about the text and the objects.

2 Wonder about the text : ask children to wonder about the story based only on the book cover and title. Children to ask: I wonder if.. I wonder why. I wonder whether. Encourage children to ask questions about the text to support prediction, speculation and to encourage children to make connections between texts and between the text and their own expereinces. Provide children with some sentence starters if this helps e.g. It seems to me Perhaps the Maybe I m not sure but That reminds me of It makes me think of when.. If the text includes illustrations use the illustration on the cover or in the first few pages of the story to raise questions about the story e.g. what interests you in the picture? What can you tell about the setting when is the story set, where is it set, what sort of story might it be based on the setting, who might the characters in the picture be? What questions would you like to ask the illustrator? Play bookzips (Cremin, 2009). Imagine that the book has a zip around it so that it can t be opened. Based on the information that you have, the cover, the title, the author, the blurb on the back predict what the plot might be about; who the main character might be if he/she is a hero or a villain; what the theme of the book might be etc. KWL grids draw up a grid headed with What I Know; What I want to know; What I have learned. What I Know What I want to know What I have learned. I know that the character is I want to know why the I found out he was angry because.. QADS grids this works in the same way as the KWL grid but requires children to provide evidence for their thoughts and learning Questions Answers Details Source During the reading of the text The research demonstrated that teachers had different levels of confidence in using text to support engagement, response and comprehension. The following list of strategies targets areas where teachers across the European countries felt least confident.

3 Developing dialogic talk Throughout the reading of text it is important to offer children a range of ways of responding to text. Teachers generally felt confident in asking literal questions about a text. These tend to lead to shorter oral answers and often one or two word responses. Extending dialogue through open questions allows children to the key skills of comprehension e.g. prediction, summarizing, clarifying, Rather than asking questions provide children with question stems to support thinking and encourage other children to respond the aim is to develop a dialogue with children justifying and supporting their opinions with reference to the text alongside reference to their own experiences including experiences of other texts. Possible question stems include: It seems to me I wonder if Maybe I m not sure but Other questioning ideas: Play the yes, no, why game. Give children some statements about the characters, plot or setting. Include statements that are open to discussion and debate. The children can answer yes or no but must be able to justify this by explaining why. This can be played considering the language of the text as well. Question stems to support inference and deduction Describe in your own words What do you think will happen because of If this was you how would your friends react? How do we know that..? If you were in s shoes what would you do now? Look at the text and find. What do you think? What was thinking as he? How do you know? From the information, can you devise a set of instructions for Where are the examples to support your point of view?

4 Alternatives to questioning These ideas can be used alongside more formal questioning or used as an alternative to questioning. They support children in inferring, deducing, probing, analysing and responding to the text. All freeze frames can be used as a starting point for writing. Children can use the freeze frame to develop their ideas for writing. Writing that flows naturally from freeze frame includes writing in role e.g. diary entries; letters/ s to other characters, retelling of the story with alternative endings etc. Drama visualising. Read parts of the story and ask children to create a soundscape of the scene i.e. think of all the sounds that might be heard at this moment of the story in the setting. Divide the class so that each group focuses on a different part of the scene. The class makes their scene sounds together creating the setting soundscape. This can provide an excellent sound track to a freeze frame. Drama conscience alley. Identify a significant decision that a character has to make in the story. Consider all the reasons for two different courses of action that the character could take. Divide the class into two groups, giving each group one of the courses of action that the character could take. Children in each group think of all the reasons why the character should take this course of action. When both groups have reasons, create two lines of children facing each other. One child volunteers to be the character and walks down between the two lines of children. As the character passes, children on either side voice their reasons why the character should act in a particular way. The line of children represents the characters conscience, and the differing thoughts the character will have when trying to decide what they should do. Drama this involves children considering the characters in the text that are on the edge of the story e.g. the wider family of the character; neighbours of the character etc. Children take on one of these roles and gossip with one another about the character, what is happening in the story and their unique point of view as an onlooker. Clarifying understanding A key skill of comprehension is to be able to continually clarify and confirm meanings and understandings as children read. As adults we do this without realising we do...we maintain an internal dialogue that checks back to clarify meaning and that makes us re read when we are unsure about something we have read. Teachers need to make this process explicit for children. One way to do this is for children to read one sentence at a time and then complete the sentence I think this means... The teacher will need to model this process, extending ideas to demonstrate the internal thought processes of a reader.

5 Aidan Chambers model (1993) Present children with the grid below. Likes Puzzles Dislikes Patterns Having read the first part of a story or at significant moments in the story ask children to identify their likes about the story/characters/plot/setting etc and their dislikes. Children should be encouraged to give reasons. The important part of this model however is the patterns and puzzles. Children need to consider the patterns they have found in the story this could be connections made with other texts; patterns in a character s behaviour; connections between a setting and a characters actions etc. Children can also consider puzzles. These the elements of the story they don t understand at the point they have reached in the story e.g. they may not understand why a character behaves as they do, or who a particular character is in the story, or the significance of a particular point in the story or the meaning of particular words or phrases. Encourage children to share their puzzles and ask children to offer possible solutions for these puzzles. Story mapping Story mapping supports children in being able to retell a story orally to either support retelling in children s own words or to support children in summarising a story. As the children listen to the story they draw a map or flow diagram of the sequence of events. These can be a series of pictures with or without key words. Retelling, readers theatre: Select one part of the story and begin to look at the language of the story. Highlight words that are unusual and that are descriptive. Look at the verbs used in the sentences. Decide how the highlighted words could be performed with actions, tone, pitch and volume of the voice. Consider which parts of the text could be repeated for emphasis, where the pace of reading could be slowed or sped up to support the understanding of the text. Children then perform this part of the text. This also supports children s interpretation and understanding of particular vocabulary. Summarising: Give each group of children a page or section of the story. The group has to decide the most important parts of the story on this page/section. They must retell their part of the story but in only two sentences. Ask children to write these sentences on separate pieces of large paper. As a class, reassemble the whole story summary and decide if any of the sentences could be taken out to reduce the retelling further.

6 Summarising: Twitter the story. Can children create a tweet 140 characters only that summarises the story? Twitter you favourite moment in the story. Twitter your thoughts at a significant moment in the story. Text the story create text sequence between characters. Post card the story write a postcard from one character to another retelling the story from this point of view. There is little space on a postcard and so children will need to summarise the story. After reading the story Inferring, reading for multiple meanings: List all the characters in the story and the rank them according to: kindness to meanness; happiest to saddest; gentlest to roughest; quick witted to dim witted etc. Do this activity as a group and the group must give reasons for their ranking and reach agreement. Summarising and recasting: Re write the story in a different genre e.g. as a newspaper article; as a cartoon; as a book review. Summarising: Imagine the text has been turned into a film. What would the poster advertising the film look like? What events would be previewed in the trailer? Children can create a film poster or even film a short trailer. Synthesising: What is your enduring memory of the story? Create a sculpture from plasticine or clay that represents the story to you - focus on the themes of the story and the possible message of the story. The model will need a title and a short description for display in an art gallery. References Chambers, A (1993) Tell me children, reading and talk Thimble Press Cremin, T (2009) Teaching English creatively Oxon: Routledge The Power of Reading Project (2011) Centre for Literacy in Primary Education

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